Shipping and delivery terminology

Shipping is an essential part of most businesses and has many different terms.

To help you understand some of the terminology about shipping and delivery, review the following list of definitions and terms.

Customs declaration form

A customs declaration form is a document that details the contents and value of goods being shipped internationally. When a shipment arrives at the destination country, customs authorities review the shipment's customs declaration form to ensure it meets the countries laws and regulations, and reviews the duties and import tax.

If you're shipping to an international destination and using Shopify Shipping, then you need to complete a customs declaration form when buying labels in your Shopify admin.

A customs form includes the following information for each item:

  • product quantity
  • product description
  • product value that is the price you're charging for the product
  • product weight
  • country or region of origin
  • HS (harmonized system) code

Other term: Commercial invoice.

Default package

A default package is a package dimensions and weight that you set up in your Shipping and delivery settings.

Your default package is the most common package that you use to ship your products. When shipping costs are calculated, the dimensions and weight of the box that you use to ship your products is often factored into the price. When you add the dimensions and weight of your default package into your Shopify admin, these can be used in your checkout to provide accurate shipping costs to customers.

If you use carrier-calculated shipping rates, then the default package's details are used by the carrier to determine the shipping rate to charge your customers during checkout.

Other term: Default box.

For more information, refer to Setting up your packages.

Delivery method

A delivery method is how you deliver orders to your customers. You can use shipping carriers and local delivery options.

For more information, refer to Set up pickup and local delivery.

Delivery time

Delivery time is a combination of your store's processing time and carrier's transit time. The delivery time starts when a customer places an order with your business and ends when the shipment is delivered to your customer.

For more information, refer to Setting up delivery dates.

Dimensional weight

Dimensional weight is the amount of space the package occupies in relation to the package's actual weight. Dimensional weight is determined by multiplying a package's length, width, and height and dividing by a unique value related to the volume of the package, called a volumetric divisor. Every carrier uses a unique volumetric divisor. If the dimensional weight is greater than the actual package weight, then the dimensional weight rate is charged.

Other terms: Billable weight, cubic weighting, volumetric weighting.

For more information, refer to Dimensional weight.

Fulfillment location

A fulfillment location is a place or an app where you fulfill orders. A location can be a retail store, a warehouse, your home, a pop-up shop, or an app.

For more information, refer to Locations.

Fulfillment service

A fulfillment service is a third-party warehouse or a fulfillment center that prepares and ships your orders for you.

For more information, refer to Custom fulfillment services.


Girth is a type of measurement that is used by many shipping carriers to determine the maximum size of a package. Girth is the distance around the thickest part of the remaining non-length sides.

  • For rectangular packages, girth is height multiplied by two plus width multiplied by two: 2 x width + 2 x height.
  • For cylindrical packages, girth is the circumference of the cylinder.

Harmonized System code

A Harmonized System code is a six-digit code that categorizes each imported or exported item. You need to provide the HS code when filling in the customs declaration form.

Other term: HS code.

For more information, refer to HTS Codes: International Commerce and Imports.

Packing slip

A packing slip is a document that includes shipping and billing addresses, and product information such as SKU number, weight, or quantity.

For more information, refer to Printing and editing packing slips.

Processing time

Processing time is the time frame between when an order is placed by a customer and when the shipment is given to the shipping carrier.

For more information, refer to Understanding and reducing processing time.

Return label

A return label is a label that you can send to your customer to return the shipment to you. Return labels can help you recover inventory that a customer no longer wants.

For more information, refer to Buying Shopify Shipping return labels.

Shipping carrier

A shipping carrier is a service, such as UPS, FedEx, DPD, USPS, Canada Post, or Chronopost that deliver your packages to customers. Depending on the carrier, you can schedule a pickup or drop off your package at a carrier's drop-off location.

For more information, refer to Shipping carriers.

Shipping insurance

Shipping insurance is a service that provides financial protection for damaged, lost, or stolen shipments. You can insure your shipments when buying a shipping label.

For more information, refer to Shipping insurance.

Shipping label

A shipping label is a label that you attach to your shipment's package. A shipping label contains information used by shipping carriers to ensure a shipment is delivered correctly. A shipping label usually contains the recipient's address, origin address, and a barcode.

You can buy shipping labels directly from shipping carriers, from third-party apps, or from your Shopify admin using Shopify Shipping.

For more information, refer to Understanding shipping labels.

Shipping manifest

A shipping manifest is a document that links all your USPS shipments together into a single barcode.

For more information, refer to USPS shipping manifests.

Shipping profile

A shipping profile is a set of shipping rates and zones that you can configure for specific products and locations. For example, you can have one shipping profile for fragile products and charge 15 USD for shipping, and have another shipping profile for all your other products and charge 5 USD for shipping.

For more information, refer to Shipping profiles.

Shipping rate

A shipping rate is what you charge your customers for shipping at checkout. For example, you can offer Standard shipping for 10 USD and Express shipping for 30 USD at checkout. You can set up shipping rates based on product weight or order price. You can use flat shipping rates or carrier-calculated rates.

For more information, refer to Shipping rates.

Shipping strategy

A shipping strategy is how you charge your customers for shipping. For example, you can offer free shipping and add the shipping fees to the product price or offer flat shipping rates.

For more information, refer to Plan your shipping strategy.

Shipping zone

A shipping zone is a group of countries or regions where a set of shipping rates are offered. For example, you can create a shipping zone for Europe and offer DHL Express rates and a flat rate that is available for all orders shipping to Europe. You can then have a separate shipping zone for the United States and offer free shipping and USPS rates for all orders shipping to the United Stated.

For more information, refer to Setting up shipping zones.

Shopify Fulfillment Network (SFN)

SFN is a fulfillment service that you can use to store your inventory and fulfill orders.

For more information, refer to Shopify Fulfillment Network.

Shipping service

A shipping service is a shipping method offered by a shipping carrier. For example, one of the shipping services that's offered by USPS is USPS Priority Mail International. This service includes a tracking number and shipping insurance. Shipping carriers usually offer multiple shipping services with different delivery times and different prices depending on the origin and destination addresses, and the shipment's weight and size.

Shopify Shipping

Shopify Shipping is an integrated shipping platform for merchants. It lets you set up delivery services and rates to your customers at checkout, buy and print shipping labels, and fulfill orders directly from your Shopify admin.

For more information, refer to Shopify Shipping.

Tracking number

A tracking number is a unique ID number or code that's assigned to a package or shipment. You and your customers can use this number to track the package throughout its shipping journey. Some tracking numbers indicate the estimated delivery date. Most shipping services come with a tracking number, but cheaper services might not have it.

Other term: Tracking code

Transit time

Transit time is the time frame from when your shipping carrier collects the shipment from you, to when the shipment arrives at your customer's address.

Transit time can also mean the feature in your Shipping and delivery settings that you can set up for your flat shipping rates.

For more information, refer to Setting up transit time.

Void a shipping label

Void means to cancel or invalidate your shipping label.

For more information, refer to Changing and voiding Shopify Shipping labels.

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